In his timely column today, Mark Steyn adds to the saga of the book that has been sent down the memory hole by Cambridge University Press at the behest of Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz:
Who is Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz? Well, he’s a very wealthy and influential Saudi. Big deal, you say. Is there any other kind? Yes, but even by the standards of very wealthy and influential Saudis, this guy is plugged in: He was the personal banker to the Saudi royal family and head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, until he sold it to the Saudi government. He has a swanky pad in London and an Irish passport and multiple U.S. business connections, including to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
I’m not saying the 9/11 Commission is a Saudi shell operation, merely making the observation that, whenever you come across a big-shot Saudi, it’s considerably less than six degrees of separation between him and the most respectable pillars of the American establishment.
As to whether allegations about support for terrorism by the sheikh and his “family, businesses and charities” are “entirely and manifestly false,” the Cambridge University Press is going way further than the United States or most foreign governments would. Of his bank’s funding of terrorism, Sheikh Mahfouz’s lawyer has said: “Like upper management at any other major banking institution, Khalid Bin Mahfouz was not, of course, aware of every wire transfer moving through the bank. Had he known of any transfers that were going to fund al-Qaida or terrorism, he would not have permitted them.” Sounds reasonable enough. Except that in this instance the Mahfouz bank was wiring money to the principal Mahfouz charity, the Muwafaq (or “Blessed Relief”) Foundation, which in turn transferred them to Osama bin Laden.
In October 2001, the Treasury Department named Muwafaq as “an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen” and its chairman as a “specially designated global terrorist.” As the Treasury concluded, “Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief.”
Indeed, this “charity” seems to have no other purpose than to fund jihad. It seeds Islamism wherever it operates. In Chechnya, it helped transform a reasonably conventional nationalist struggle into an outpost of the jihad. In the Balkans, it played a key role in replacing a traditionally moderate Islam with a form of Mitteleuropean Wahhabism. Pick a Muwafaq branch office almost anywhere on the planet and you get an interesting glimpse of the typical Saudi charity worker. The former head of its mission in Zagreb, Croatia, for example, is a guy called Ayadi Chafiq bin Muhammad. Well, he’s called that most of the time. But he has at least four aliases and residences in at least three nations (Germany, Austria and Belgium). He was named as a bin Laden financier by the U.S. government and disappeared from the United Kingdom shortly after 9/11.
So why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?